The attempted murder trial of Michael Juan Smith continued Wednesday in Columbia, with testimony from the officer who arrested him immediately after a shot or shots were fired, with one hitting USC student Martha Childress of Greenville.
Childress was an 18-year-old freshman at the time, who had gone to the Five Points area of Columbia on the night of October 12th, 2013. The shooting happened just after 2 a.m. on October 13th. Childress still has the bullet lodged in her spine and is paralyzed from the waist down.
Columbia police officer Theodore MacLaughlin was on foot patrol at the time and heard gunshots. There’s been conflicting testimony throughout the trial about how many shots were fired, with some witnesses saying there were one or two shots, others saying three or four. One officer testified that, in a city setting with buildings around, it can be difficult to tell how many shots are fired because the noise from one will echo off of buildings, making it sound like more than one.
MacLaughlin told the jury he ran toward the fountain area of Five Points, the direction he thought the shots came from, and saw a man running away from that area with his hand in his jacket pocket. He said there was something that looked heavy bouncing around in the pocket as he ran.
He grabbed the man, who turned out to be Michael Smith, and pulled a Glock 27 handgun out of Smith’s jacket pocket. “Being that it was warm and I could feel it through my glove meant that it had been recently fired,” he told the jury.
He says Smith said, “I didn’t mean to shoot.”
The jury also heard from a crime scene investigator who found one shell casing at the scene and tested Smith’s hand for the presence of gunshot residue.
Smith’s friends, who were with him the night of the shooting, also testified. They all said they heard the shots but did not know that Smith had a gun and did not see him shoot it.
Another man who testified was Byron Tucker, who was also in Five Points with friends. He said his friends had tried to talk to the three girls who were with Smith as they walked down the street, but the girls weren’t interested. Smith’s attorney says those three men were gang members who had targeted Smith because he associated with other gang members, and that Smith had acted in self-defense. Tucker said he’s not in a gang but some of his friends are. He told the jury neither he nor his friends were carrying guns that night.
After his friends had tried to talk to the girls who were with Smith, Tucker says he heard gunshots. When he heard the shots, he said he thought, “I can’t believe he was shooting at us! He has no regard for human life!”
The trial continues Thursday.